There's quite a bit of talk about how expensive babies are. To be honest, I'm quite bewildered by that because a baby's first year of life doesn't have to be a big-ticket affair. Certainly, there are added expenses, but there are so many ways to drive down the cost.
Babies really need very little. Snuggles. Sweetness. Something to eat. Somewhere to lay their heads to sleep.
Consider these ten tips:
1. Give birth at a birth center (or at home). You can save an estimated 30-50% by delivering at a birth center instead of a hospital. To find out more about birth centers, read my past article: Birth Centers 101. To read about my personal experience giving birth at a hospital for baby #1 and at a birth center for baby #2, read: Birth Centers versus Hospitals. To find a birth center near you, visit the AABC website. Or you can choose to give birth at home - an even less expensive option.
2. Breastfeed. La Leche League reports that "A woman who formula- feeds her baby will spend more than $100 (US) each month on formula, and that's only if she buys the least-expensive concentrated powder..." Multiply that by 12…at the least, you’ll spend $1,200 a year on formula. If you go with the pricier brands, you could end up spending over $6,000! If you compare that to the cost of breastfeeding (um…$0), there really is no comparison. Not to mention all of the health benefits to baby and to you.
3. Skip the elaborate baby nursery. When you are pregnant, people will inevitably ask you if the "nursery" is "done." Just smile and nod, smile and nod. The commercial baby industry would have us believe that we need the whole matchy-matchy ensemble - painted walls, curtains, crib sheets and bumper, changing table, framed artwork, etc. While it is perfectly okay if you WANT to decorate that dream area just like in the catalogs, it is 100% unnecessary. Many babies don't even sleep in their "own rooms" anyway and, even if they do, I promise you THEY won't care a bit if the room is decorated with teddy bears, tutus, tiggers, or turquoise.
4. Don't go bananas over baby gear. When you get those super long baby registry checklists at Babies R Us and Target, you'll be tempted to buy a long list of products: a crib, a swing, a bouncy chair, a baby seat, a car seat cover, a device that lets you hear baby's heartbeat in the womb, etc. Be weary of such lists. In fact, I highly recommend that you promptly tear out the list and throw it in the garbage. The best baby gear advice is probably to "wait and see." Some families use cribs; some families don't. Some babies like swings; some babies don't. Some babies like to be swaddled super tight; some babies don't. Etc. When it comes to baby gear, waiting is wise.
5. Remember that toys are overrated. Point A: Itty bitty babies don't play with toys. Point B: Even older babies don't play with many toys (they will just as soon play with your water bottle or a cardboard box). Point C: People will likely give you more toys than your child will really need. Point D: Most kids like imaginative activities (riding bikes, making mud pies, painting, blowing bubbles, etc.) better than playing with toys. Point E: Most toys are cheap-y, plastic things made of questionable materials. Conclusion? Your baby does not need you to buy them toys - especially in the 1st year of life.
6. Rediscover the wonder of the public library. Books, DVDs, CDs...all at your fingertips. Plus, there are storytimes and events and programs. Did I mention the whole experience is FREE?
7. Make friends with nature. Entertainment at its best occurs in the great wide open. Go for a walk. Have a picnic. Stargaze. Watch the clouds. Babies love that - as should we. Nature is good for the soul - and that "attraction" doesn't cost a dime.
8. Get chummy with CraigsList. Let's say you have your heart set on buying a swing or an ERGObaby carrier or a video monitor. Before you head to a baby department store, check CraigsList. You'll probably find that some of the items for sale are barely used or even brand new.
9. Don't be ashamed of secondhand style. Even if you don't like shopping at thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops for yourself...consider it for your wee ones. Babies grow out of things so fast. And you can get pieces at pretty amazing prices if you know where to look. Another option is to host a clothes swap in your home with friends.
10. Consider being a stay-at-home mom (or encourage your husband to be a stay-at-home dad). When you factor in child care expenses, wear-and-tear on vehicles, and medical bills (kids in childcare tend to get sick more often than their at-home counterparts), that second income dwindles quite a bit. In fact, I know some couples who end up PAYING to go to work.
Sometimes I talk to women who tell me how "lucky" I am to be able to stay at home or how they wish they could, but..."luck" has nothing to do with it. I want to make it very, very clear that I am not "lucky" to be a stay-at-home mom. I choose it. We choose it. We have a smaller house than we can afford. We have used cars. We eat in. What it comes down to is choices. You can be a stay-at-home parent too (if you want).
And there are always work-from-home options as well...
YOUR TURN: What are your top money-saving tips for baby's first year?